Project nr.  296127

 

January 2012 -  December 2014

 
 
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Sustainability describes the potential for long-term maintenance of the well-being of humans and our environment. As we create, design and manufacture globally increasing volumes of electronic products, the sustainability of scarce and critical resources for new electronic products as well as the treatment of electronic waste becomes critical. However, the notion of sustainability for electronics is mostly driven by energy efficiency during product manufacturing, and a significant percentage of electronics does not end up in the appropriate waste stream at all.

The main goal of the GreenElec project is to significantly improve on resource efficiency of electronics. This is accomplished by designing and manufacturing electronics that enable more effective recycling in cooperation between manufacturers and recyclers. Three electronic product categories are used as carriers: LED lamps, consumer televisions and professional display systems.

Crucial to the GreenElec project is close cooperation between companies at the production side of the value chain (Philips, Barco, TP Vision, Connectronics, MatTech, NXP), companies focusing on end-of-life aspects of products (Stena, CIT, Maras, MOS, RFND) and institutes with knowledge on product design, electronics and business modelling (TUD, IMEC, TNO).

The project focused on:
  • Suitable combinations of materials for recycling
  • Design rules for electronics and electronic products taking into account recycling processes
  • Identification of recyclable/recoverable electronic devices and components
  • Methods and technology for sorting of devices and components into well-defined waste streams
  • Optimum waste stream separation for maximal recovery
  • Business models and policy support that give an incentive to the recycling/reuse of electronics

Design guidelines based on recycling insights have been formulated. Carrier products (television, medical display, lamps, luminair) based on these guidelines have been designed and built. The design for recycling guidelines have resulted in products that show clearly improved recyclability as validated following different methodologies. Furthermore, the economic viability is demonstrated by some products that are already available on the market.

Regarding optimal end-of-life treatment, working pilot equipment for advanced sorting and separation has been built. Recycling tests have provided insight in the optimal way to disassemble different products, taking into account environmental as well as economic aspects. This has resulted in product related recycling schemes.

Business aspects have been thoroughly analysed. A multi-stakeholder business analysis has led to the identification of bottlenecks and possible interventions to implement the innovations developed in GreenElec into actual business practice. Most promising ways of working and interventions have been established together with stakeholders outside the project.

Notably, it has been found that current WEEE recyclability targets do not provide the right design incentives. The focus on overall weight neglects the importance of recovery of valuable and critical materials. The detrimental effect of unbreakable connections between incompatible materials is ignored and actual recovery yields are not taken into account. Regulations in whcih these aspects are addressed, although likely more complicated, are needed to drive towards increased resource efficiency.

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For further information / comments about the project,
please contact the Project Manager, Ruud Balkenende of Philips Group Innovation, Research.


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